Besides writing some pieces for the American Printing House for the Blind, I spend most of my time working with entertainment programs regarding shows that involve blindness. On occasion, publishers and writers reach out to me on projects like books, stories, and articles involving blindness. When it comes to my work in the entertainment industry, I am selective about which project I accept. When you leave a job or project, the only thing you get to leave with is your name. Thank you Dan Strechay, my infamous twin brother, for sharing that advice with me years ago. I have the ability to choose with whom I work, and I want to make sure my name is tied to a quality project.
You wouldn’t believe some of the things people reach out to me for help with regarding blindness, but this project was a true pleasure from the start. Scholastic and Tracey West contacted me about Tracey’s book series, Dragon Masters. The 16th book in the series was introducing a new character who is blind, Tessa. Dragon Masters is a series in which children paired with magical or mythical dragons go on adventures. Each dragon has different powers. Tracey did her homework early on by reaching out to a number of people who are blind for input. Tracey and Scholastic came to me because of my past work. We met virtually, as typical. We discussed the project, and I figured out what they were looking for during this process.
My work with Tracey began with some conversations, where she asked particular questions that she had been considering. I gave her some background and possibilities. Tracey is a talented writer and creative voice. I was asked to review the dialogue for the book to provide any suggestions. As they began to illustrate the book, I was also asked to review the movements of the main character, Tessa; the harness or leash connecting the dragon to Tessa (similar to the use of a dog guide), and the positioning of Tessa in different situations. I filmed myself demonstrating the staff movement to utilize as an example for the illustrator, as Tessa’s staff was used like a white cane of this world.
Time went by, and they came back to me with sample illustrations. I utilized my wife’s training in audio description to describe the images. I asked her particular questions about the positioning of the characters, and provided suggestions back to Tracey and the Scholastic team.
My work as a consultant across fields gives me an opportunity to take on new and exciting projects. I am a producer for SEE on AppleTV+, and then I am assisting the American Printing House for the Blind with a project. I might get asked to assist with a book or play. One of my other passions is speaking to teenagers about my path in education and employment filled with little lessons from the employment process. Being able to share how television, films, and literature are created with suggestions from my own and others’ experiences.
I strongly suggest checking out Dragon Masters: Call of the Sound Dragon and the rest of the series. Tessa represents blindness well in this magical and mythical world filled with adventure. Thank you to Scholastic and Tracey West for allowing me to assist with this project. The Royal National Institute for the Blind and the National Network for Equitable Library Service assisted Scholastic in creating accessible versions of this book. The book will be available on June 1, 2020. Please check out other employment journeys in the Our Stories section of APH CareerConnect. Read more about this project on FamilyConnect.